Michael Moore, Saudia Arabia
Answers Please, Mr BushDude, Where's My Country?, The Guardian, Oct-7-2003
Michael Moore fired his opening salvo against George Bush and his rightwing cronies with his bestseller Stupid White Men. Now the president is in his sights again. In this second extract from his new book he asks his old enemy seven awkward questions...
I have seven questions for you, Mr Bush. I ask them on behalf of the 3,000 who died that September day, and I ask them on behalf of the American people. We seek no revenge against you. We want only to know what happened, and what can be done to bring the murderers to justice, so we can prevent any future attacks on our citizens.
1. Is it true that the Bin Ladens have had business relations with you and your family off and on for the past 25 years?
Most Americans might be surprised to learn that you and your father have known the Bin Ladens for a long time. What, exactly, is the extent of this relationship, Mr Bush? Are you close personal friends, or simply on-again, off-again business associates? Salem bin Laden - Osama's brother - first started coming to Texas in 1973 and later bought some land, built himself a house, and created Bin Laden Aviation at the San Antonio airfield.
The Bin Ladens are one of the wealthiest families in Saudi Arabia. Their huge construction firm virtually built the country, from the roads and power plants to the skyscrapers and government buildings. They built some of the airstrips America used in your dad's Gulf war. Billionaires many times over, they soon began investing in other ventures around the world, including the US. They have extensive business dealings with Citigroup, General Electric, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and the Fremont Group.
According to the New Yorker, the bin Laden family also owns a part of Microsoft and the airline and defence giant Boeing. They have donated $2m to your alma mater, Harvard University, and tens of thousands to the Middle East Policy Council, a think-tank headed by a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman. In addition to the property they own in Texas, they also have real estate in Florida and Massachusetts. In short, they have their hands deep in our pants.
Unfortunately, as you know, Mr Bush, Salem bin Laden died in a plane crash in Texas in 1988. Salem's brothers - there are around 50 of them, including Osama - continued to run the family companies and investments.
After leaving office, your father became a highly paid consultant for a company known as the Carlyle Group - one of the nation's largest defence contractors. One of the investors in the Carlyle Group - to the tune of at least $2m - was none other than the Bin Laden family. Until 1994, you headed a company called CaterAir, which was owned by the Carlyle Group.
After September 11, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal both ran stories pointing out this connection. Your first response, Mr Bush, was to ignore it. Then your army of pundits went into spin control. They said, we can't paint these Bin Ladens with the same brush we use for Osama. They have disowned Osama! They have nothing to do with him! These are the good Bin Ladens.
And then the video footage came out. It showed a number of these "good" Bin Ladens - including Osama's mother, a sister and two brothers - with Osama at his son's wedding just six and a half months before September 11. It was no secret to the CIA that Osama bin Laden had access to his family fortune (his share is estimated to be at least $30m), and the Bin Ladens, as well as other Saudis, kept Osama and his group, al-Qaida, well funded.
You've gotten a free ride from the media, though they know everything I have just written to be the truth. They seem unwilling or afraid to ask you a simple question, Mr Bush: WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
In case you don't understand just how bizarre the media's silence is regarding the Bush-Bin Laden connections, let me draw an analogy to how the press or Congress might have handled something like this if the same shoe had been on the Clinton foot. If, after the terrorist attack on the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, it had been revealed that President Bill Clinton and his family had financial dealings with Timothy McVeigh's family, what do you think your Republican party and the media would have done with that one?
Do you think at least a couple of questions might have been asked, such as, "What is that all about?" Be honest, you know the answer. They would have asked more than a couple of questions. They would have skinned Clinton alive and thrown what was left of his carcass in Guantanamo Bay.
2. What is the 'special relationship' between the Bushes and the Saudi royal family?
Mr Bush, the Bin Ladens are not the only Saudis with whom you and your family have a close personal relationship. The entire royal family seems to be indebted to you - or is it the other way round?
The number one supplier of oil to the US is the nation of Saudi Arabia, possessor of the largest known reserves of oil in the world. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, it was really the Saudis next door who felt threatened, and it was your father, George Bush I, who came to their rescue. The Saudis have never forgotten this. Haifa, wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US, says that your mother and father "are like my mother and father. I know if ever I needed anything I could go to them".
A major chunk of the American economy is built on Saudi money. They have a trillion dollars invested in our stock market and another trillion dollars in our banks. If they chose suddenly to remove that money, our corporations and financial institutions would be sent into a tailspin, causing an economic crisis the likes of which has never been seen. Couple that with the fact that the 1.5m barrels of oil we need daily from the Saudis could also vanish on a mere royal whim, and we begin to see how not only you, but all of us, are dependent on the House of Saud. George, is this good for our national security, our homeland security? Who is it good for? You? Pops?
After meeting with the Saudi crown prince in April 2002, you happily told us that the two of you had "established a strong personal bond" and that you "spent a lot of time alone". Were you trying to reassure us? Or just flaunt your friendship with a group of rulers who rival the Taliban in their suppression of human rights? Why the double standard?
3. Who attacked the US on September 11 - a guy on dialysis from a cave in Afghanistan, or your friend, Saudi Arabia?
I'm sorry, Mr Bush, but something doesn't make sense.
You got us all repeating by rote that it was Osama bin Laden who was responsible for the attack on the United States on September 11. Even I was doing it. But then I started hearing strange stories about Osama's kidneys. Suddenly, I don't know who or what to trust. How could a guy sitting in a cave in Afghanistan, hooked up to dialysis, have directed and overseen the actions of 19 terrorists for two years in the US then plotted so perfectly the hijacking of four planes and then guaranteed that three of them would end up precisely on their targets? How did he organise, communicate, control and supervise this kind of massive attack? With two cans and a string?
The headlines blared it the first day and they blare it the same way now two years later: "Terrorists Attack United States." Terrorists. I have wondered about this word for some time, so, George, let me ask you a question: if 15 of the 19 hijackers had been North Korean, rather than Saudi, and they had killed 3,000 people, do you think the headline the next day might have read, "NORTH KOREA ATTACKS UNITED STATES"? Of course it would. Or if it had been 15 Iranians or 15 Libyans or 15 Cubans, I think the conventional wisdom would have been, "IRAN [or LIBYA or CUBA] ATTACKS AMERICA!" Yet, when it comes to September 11, have you ever seen the headline, have you ever heard a newscaster, has one of your appointees ever uttered these words: "Saudi Arabia attacked the United States"?
Of course you haven't. And so the question must - must - be asked: why not? Why, when Congress released its own investigation into September 11, did you, Mr Bush, censor out 28 pages that deal with the Saudis' role in the attack?
I would like to throw out a possibility here: what if September 11 was not a "terrorist" attack but, rather, a military attack against the United States? George, apparently you were a pilot once - how hard is it to hit a five-storey building at more than 500 miles an hour? The Pentagon is only five stories high. At 500 miles an hour, had the pilots been off by just a hair, they'd have been in the river. You do not get this skilled at learning how to fly jumbo jets by being taught on a video game machine at some dipshit flight training school in Arizona. You learn to do this in the air force. Someone's air force.
The Saudi air force?
What if these weren't wacko terrorists, but military pilots who signed on to a suicide mission? What if they were doing this at the behest of either the Saudi government or certain disgruntled members of the Saudi royal family? The House of Saud, according to Robert Baer's book Sleeping With the Devil, is full of them. So, did certain factions within the Saudi royal family execute the attack on September 11? Were these pilots trained by the Saudis? Why are you so busy protecting the Saudis when you should be protecting us?
4. Why did you allow a private Saudi jet to fly around the US in the days after September 11 and pick up members of the Bin Laden family and fly them out of the country without a proper investigation by the FBI?
Private jets, under the supervision of the Saudi government - and with your approval - were allowed to fly around the skies of America, when travelling by air was forbidden, and pick up 24 members of the Bin Laden family and take them first to a "secret assembly point in Texas". They then flew to Washington DC, and then on to Boston. Finally, on September 18, they were all flown to Paris, out of the reach of any US officials. They never went through any serious interrogation. This is mind-boggling. Might it have been possible that at least one of the 24 Bin Ladens would have possibly known something?
While thousands were stranded and could not fly, if you could prove you were a close relative of the biggest mass murderer in US history, you got a free trip to gay Paree!
Why, Mr Bush, was this allowed to happen?
5. Why are you protecting the Second Amendment rights of potential terrorists?
Mr Bush, in the days after September 11, the FBI began running a check to see if any of the 186 "suspects" the feds had rounded up in the first five days after the attack had purchased any guns in the months leading up to September 11 (two of them had). When your attorney general, John Ashcroft, heard about this, he immediately shut down the search. He told the FBI that the background check files could not be used for such a search and these files were only to be used at the time of a purchase of a gun.
Mr Bush, you can't be serious! Is your administration really so gun nutty and so deep in the pocket of the National Rifle Association? I truly love how you have rounded up hundreds of people, grabbing them off the streets without notice, throwing them in prison cells, unable to contact lawyers or family, and then, for the most part, shipped them out of the country on mere immigration charges.
You can waive their Fourth Amendment protection from unlawful search and seizure, their Sixth Amendment rights to an open trial by a jury of their peers and the right to counsel, and their First Amendment rights to speak, assemble, dissent and practise their religion. You believe you have the right to just trash all these rights, but when it comes to the Second Amendment right to own an AK-47 - oh no! That right they can have - and you will defend their right to have it.
Who, Mr Bush, is really aiding the terrorists here?
6. Were you aware that, while you were governor of Texas, the Taliban travelled to Texas to meet with your oil and gas company friends?
According to the BBC, the Taliban came to Texas while you were governor to meet with Unocal, the huge oil and energy giant, to discuss Unocal's desire to build a natural-gas pipeline running from Turkmenistan through Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and into Pakistan.
Mr Bush, what was this all about?
"Houston, we have a problem," apparently never crossed your mind, even though the Taliban were perhaps the most repressive fundamentalist regime on the planet. What role exactly did you play in the Unocal meetings with the Taliban?
According to various reports, representatives of your administration met with the Taliban or conveyed messages to them during the summer of 2001. What were those messages, Mr Bush? Were you discussing their offer to hand over Bin Laden? Were you threatening them with use of force? Were you talking to them about a pipeline?
7. What exactly was that look on your face in the Florida classroom on the morning of September 11 when your chief of staff told you, 'America is under attack'?
On the morning of September 11, you took a jog on a golf course and then headed to Booker elementary school in Florida to read to little children. You arrived at the school after the first plane had hit the north tower in New York City. You entered the classroom around 9am and the second plane hit the south tower at 9.03am. Just a few minutes later, as you were sitting in front of the class of kids, your chief of staff, Andrew Card, entered the room and whispered in your ear. Card was apparently telling you about the second plane and about us being "under attack".
And it was at that very moment that your face went into a distant glaze, not quite a blank look, but one that seemed partially paralysed. No emotion was shown. And then ... you just sat there. You sat there for another seven minutes or so doing nothing.
George, what were you thinking? What did that look on your face mean?
Were you thinking you should have taken reports the CIA had given you the month before more seriously? You had been told al-Qaida was planning attacks in the United States and that planes would possibly be used.
Or were you just scared shitless?
Or maybe you were just thinking, "I did not want this job in the first place! This was supposed to be Jeb's job; he was the chosen one! Why me? Why me, daddy?"
Or ... maybe, just maybe, you were sitting there in that classroom chair thinking about your Saudi friends - both the royals and the Bin Ladens. People you knew all too well that might have been up to no good. Would questions be asked? Would suspicions arise? Would the Democrats have the guts to dig into your family's past with these people (no, don't worry, never a chance of that!)? Would the truth ever come out?
And while I'm at it ...
Danger - multi-millionaires at large
I've always thought it was interesting that the mass murder of September 11 was allegedly committed by a multi-millionaire. We always say it was committed by a "terrorist" or by an "Islamic fundamentalist" or an "Arab", but we never define Osama by his rightful title: multi-millionaire. Why have we never read a headline saying, "3,000 Killed by multi-millionaire"? It would be a correct headline, would it not?
Osama bin Laden has assets totalling at least $30m; he is a multi-millionaire. So why isn't that the way we see this person, as a rich fuck who kills people? Why didn't that become the reason for profiling potential terrorists? Instead of rounding up suspicious Arabs, why don't we say, "Oh my God, a multi-millionaire killed 3,000 people! Round up the multi-millionaires! Throw them all in jail! No charges! No trials! Deport the millionaires!!"
Keeping America safe
The US Patriot Act and the enemy combatant designation are just a hint of what Bush has in store for us. Consider a brainchild of Admiral John Poindexter, an Iran-contra perp, and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa): the "policy analysis market", which the government was to put up on a website.
Apparently, Poindexter reasoned that commodity futures markets worked so well for Bush's buddies at Enron that he could adapt it to predicting terrorism. Individuals would be able to invest in hypothetical futures contracts involving the likelihood of such events as "an assassination of Yasser Arafat" or "the overthrow of Jordan's King Abdullah II". Other futures would be available based on the economic health, civil stability and military involvement in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. All oil-related countries.
The proposed market lasted about one day after it was revealed to the Senate. Senators Wyden and Dorgan protested the Pentagon's $8m request, and Wyden said, "Make-believe markets trading in possibilities that turn the stomach hardly seem like a sensible next step to take with taxpayers money in the war on terror." As a result of the uproar over this, Poindexter was asked to step down.
Giving Saddam the key to Detroit
In Las Vegas, an armoured fighting vehicle was used to crush French yogurt, French bread, bottles of French wine, Perrier, Grey Goose vodka, photos of Chirac, a guide to Paris and, best of all, photocopies of the French flag. France was the perfect country to pick on. If you're a cable news company, why spend priceless reporting time on investigating whether Iraq really does have weapons of mass destruction when you can do a story about how rotten the French are?
Fox News led the charge of pinning Chirac to Saddam Hussein, showing old footage of the two men together. It didn't matter that the meeting had taken place in the 1970s. The media didn't bother to run (over and over again) the footage from when Saddam was presented with a key to the city of Detroit, or the film from the early 1980s of Donald Rumsfeld visiting Saddam in Baghdad to discuss the progress of the Iran-Iraq war. The footage of Rumsfeld embracing Saddam apparently wasn't worth running on a continuous loop. Or even once. OK, maybe once. On Oprah.
© Michael Moore 2003. To order a copy of Dude, Where's My Country?, by Michael Moore, for £11.99 plus p&p (rrp £17.99), call the Guardian book service on 0870 066 7979. Published by Allen Lane on October 7.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003